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Brian Boyle was the most heartwarming story of NHL All-Star Weekend

The 33-year-old veteran was diagnosed with cancer in September. Now, he’s a standout All-Star story.

2018 GEICO NHL All-Star Skills Competition Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Brian Boyle originally wasn’t one of the 44 NHL players chosen for All-Star Weekend, but that didn’t matter by the event’s end. The 2018 All-Star Game has come and gone, yet the prevailing moments from the weekend in Tampa have all been centered around a 33-year-old fourth liner.

The New Jersey Devils’ original All-Star pick was Taylor Hall, but the explosive forward was injured in the week leading up to the event. Instead of picking one of New Jersey’s other young stars, the Devils went with Boyle, who would seem like a pick out of left field in any other year but this one.

Back in September, Boyle was diagnosed with a rare, yet treatable form of cancer called chronic myeloid leukemia but was hoping to continue playing through the treatment. In November, Boyle joined his new team in New Jersey and proceeded to make headlines with his emotional play and overall general success as a league veteran playing on the fourth line. This weekend was Boyle’s first NHL All-Star Game invitation, and one he was “honored” to accept.

The All-Star Game in Tampa was the literal perfect storm for Boyle’s heartwarming story to take center stage. Boyle previously played with the Lightning for two and a half seasons before he was moved at the 2017 trade deadline, making his return to Tampa Bay all the sweeter. Not only that, the crowd in Amalie Arena was more than happy to welcome Boyle back with open arms in both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game proper.

Boyle made a few appearances during the Skills Competition on Saturday, highlighted by his near-victorious performance during the Accuracy Shooting event.

While Boyle didn’t win, he was naturally a good sport about losing to Vancouver rookie Brock Boeser.

Maybe the more impactful moments came off the ice. Boyle was humble and in awe of his opportunity — as this was his first, and maybe only, All-Star Game.

In speaking with NHL.com, Boyle recounted on the moments that brought him to this weekend, and how special he found this once in a lifetime opportunity to be:

“I can’t believe this is my life,” he said. “I’m very thankful. I always have been. I’ve never taken it for granted to play in this league. To be here and to see all these stars, the guys, how humble they are and then how supportive they’ve been for me throughout the year and even today, it’s been wild. It really is. I’m just going to try to enjoy it the best I can.”

Boyle also spoke to 17-year-old Katie Hawley, Anaheim’s 21st Duck, who has been fighting her own battles against cancer since the age of nine. The pair traded stories on their own experiences with cancer in a moment that perfectly encapsulates what Boyle’s presence meant to not only himself, but fans watching across the world.

While the Metropolitan Division fell to the Atlantic 7-4 in their opening matchup against the Atlantic, Boyle was a clear presence in the lineup. Despite being shut out on the scoreboard, Boyle was used as a perfect decoy on a breakaway that netted the Metropolitan Division a goal early in the contest.

There was no crowning moment like John Scott had two years ago in Nashville. In a way, it’s almost a shame given Boyle’s story to get to the All-Star Game and his history with the Lightning. A goal in the Metropolitan Division’s only game would have been the perfect end to Boyle’s All-Star story.

Even still, this weekend is just another feather in Boyle’s cap of a season that may not have been. Boyle’s inspiring story has been among the best in the NHL this season, and this All-Star weekend brought us another moment of joy for the longtime veteran.


Boyle was emotional after scoring his first goal of the season